San Diego sailor angered over Japan radiation exposure

Lindsay Cooper assisted with aid delivery to Japan

CARLSBAD, Calif. - A San Diego sailor says she is suing Japan and the Tokyo Electric Power Company for radiation exposure.

Lindsay Cooper, 23, was stationed aboard the USS Ronald Reagan when it was sent to aid those in Japan affected by a devastating tsunami last year.

The world watched in awe as plumes from the Fukushima Nuclear Power Plant hung in the air last March.  The same plumes which sent radioactive debris onto the Ronald Reagan, with roughly 5,500 sailors on board.

 “The debris and the teddy bears and the pictures that you saw in the water, that was real,” Cooper told 10News. “The radiation … we couldn’t see that. We could only trust what our command was telling us.”

Cooper was an aviation boatswain's mate who worked on the flight deck of the aircraft carrier.

But to her, the most important role she has now is being a mother to 3-year-old Serenity.

“I'm scared. I'm really scared. If I'm gone and I have no one to take care of my daughter, who is going to tell her what happened?” said Cooper.

Her attorney, Paul C. Garner, wants the country of Japan and the Fukushima plant to take responsibility.

He says they knowingly lied about the levels of radiation as the sailors worked and cleaned the flight deck of the Reagan nearby.

“The personnel who were on the flight deck of the carrier, had to do that {clean} with contaminated water,” said Garner. “Then their clothing was taken away from them because it was radioactive.”

In addition to Cooper, he says there are eight other sailors and an infant of one of those sailors who are now sick. 

He said they suffer from ailments from radiation poisoning, such as internal bleeding and persistent migraines.  But confirming that these health problems came from the Fukushima exposure won't be easy.

San Diego State University professor and nuclear expert, Murray Jennex, told 10News that determining radiation levels in a person can easily be argued.

But to Cooper, who experienced it first hand, she doesn’t want this to ever happen to anyone else.

“If they would have told us the severity of the issue, we wouldn’t have treated it like it wasn’t just a crazy day on the boat,” Cooper added.

In the meantime, the Reagan remains dry docked in Washington state.

Their lawsuit seeks $30 million in damages and a $100 million fund set up for any other sailor who becomes sick in the future.

10News reached out to the Tokyo plant's office in Washington D.C., but did not hear back.

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